Publications by Faculty & Alumni

Shiban, Hassan. “Redefining Syrian Identity in the Diaspora: A Glimpse into the Lives of Syrian Refugees in Jordan June-July, 2012.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2013.
Zarkar, Rustin. “Building an Insurgent Consciousness: Political Posters of the Fada’I Khalq (1978-80).” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2013.
Zavage, John. “More Than Just Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds: A Flawed Constitution, the Failure of Parliamentary Oversight and the Rise of Nuri Al-Maliki in Iraq.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2013.
Atshan, Sa'ed Adel. “ Prolonged Humanitarianism: The Social Life of Aid in the Palestinian Territories.” Anthropology and MES, 2013. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), defined by international law as constituting the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (the latter includes East Jerusalem), are among the highest recipients of international humanitarian aid per capita in the world. In Prolonged Humanitarianism: The Social Life of Aid in the Palestinian Territories, I examine the impact of primarily Western aid on Palestinian society in the present phase of de-development in the OPT (2010-2013). I examine four domains in particular: medical relief, psychosocial humanitarianism, gender-based interventions, and security-sector support. My research reveals the interlinked nature of these domains as well as the blurring of development and humanitarian assistance in the OPT. A central purpose of this research is to provide an ethnographic account of contemporary Palestinian subjectivity under prolonged humanitarian governance, thereby contributing to scholarship on conflict and violence, modern Middle Eastern studies, the anthropology of policy and humanitarianism, and critical development studies.

Tell This in My Memory: Stories of Enslavement from Egypt, Sudan, and the Ottoman Empire
Powell, Eve Marie Troutt. Tell This in My Memory: Stories of Enslavement from Egypt, Sudan, and the Ottoman Empire. Stanford University Press, 2012. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In the late nineteenth century, an active slave trade sustained social and economic networks across the Ottoman Empire and throughout Egypt, Sudan, the Caucasus, and Western Europe. Unlike the Atlantic trade, slavery in this region crossed and mixed racial and ethnic lines. Fair-skinned Circassian men and women were as vulnerable to enslavement in the Nile Valley as were teenagers from Sudan or Ethiopia.

Tell This in My Memory opens up a new window in the study of slavery in the modern Middle East, taking up personal narratives of slaves and slave owners to shed light on the anxieties and intimacies of personal experience. The framework of racial identity constructed through these stories proves instrumental in explaining how countries later confronted—or not—the legacy of the slave trade. Today, these vocabularies of slavery live on for contemporary refugees whose forced migrations often replicate the journeys and stigmas faced by slaves in the nineteenth century.

Doostdar, Alireza. “Fantasies of Reason: Science, Superstition, and the Supernatural in Iran.” Anthropology and MES, 2012. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation examines uncertainties about the supernatural among members of the urban middle class in Tehran, Iran. In particular, I attend to the ways in which the category of the supernatural (mavara) has become, for some people, an object of potential scientific ('elmi ) inquiry that must be distinguished from approaches usually ascribed to the rural, the uneducated, and the poor, often deemed as either superstitions (khorafat) or parochically religious (dini). By examining a range of encounters with the supernatural – such as attempts to explain communications with the souls of the dead, make sense of spirit possession, and differentiate real magic from charlatanism – I highlight the varied modalities through which perspectives and forms of reasoning imagined to be rational and scientific are brought to bear on matters that are understood to lie, at least partially, within the purview of religious knowledge. I situate such supernatural encounters against a backdrop of state disciplinary and coercive measures, thereby illuminating important shifts in Iran's politico-religious landscape in the past two decades, such as the waning of the religious authority of the Shi'i ulama among certain sections of society. This declining authority does not necessarily imply a weakened interest in Islam (although this is sometimes the case). Rather, it has opened up a space for reception and deliberation of a multiplicity of sources of religious knowledge, both Islamic and non-Islamic. These include forms of Western-imported spirituality and occultism that have been entering Iran for over a century, with their most recent wave consisting of translated texts of New Age spirituality, self-help success literature, and popular psychology that have gained popularity since the end of the war with Iraq. The metaphysical models on offer through these spiritual systems are usually promoted and understood as scientific rather than religious. That is, rather than being seen as contradicting Islamic notions, these formulations are often viewed as parallel to them. By attending to such notions and their everyday manifestations, my project brings into focus various hybrid forms of religious-scientific knowledge, experience, and discourse that have largely been ignored in the study of modern Muslim societies.

Bet-Shlimon, Arbella. “Kirkuk, 1918–1968: Oil and the Politics of Identity in an Iraqi City.” History and MES, 2012. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In this dissertation, I use methodological approaches from studies of urbanism, oil modernity, nation building, and identity formation to analyze the relationships between urban change, oil, state integration, and the politicization of group identities in the multiethnic Iraqi city of Kirkuk from 1918 to 1968. I argue that, in early to mid-twentieth-century Kirkuk, the oil industry, Baghdad’s policies, and the British neocolonial presence interacted with local conditions to produce the crystallization of ethnic group identities within a nascent domain of local politics. I find that at the time of the formation of the Iraqi state in the early 1920s, group identities in Kirkuk were fluid and local politics did not align clearly with ethnicities or other self-identities. Instead, they were largely subsumed under relations between more powerful external entities. Kirkukis’ political loyalties were based on which entity best served their interests—or, as was often the case, were positioned against a side based on its perceived hostility to their concerns. These political dynamics began to shift with Kirkuk’s incorporation into Baghdad’s domain, the beginnings of the Iraq Petroleum Company’s exploration just northwest of urban Kirkuk, and the end of British mandate rule. The Iraqi central government’s integration efforts exacerbated fault lines between emergent Kurdish, Turkmen, and Arab ethnic communities at a time when the city’s population and its urban fabric were growing rapidly. The oil industry, which provided the livelihood for a substantial percentage of Kirkuk’s population, became the focus of Communist-led labor organization. Consequently, the Iraqi government, the British government, and the oil company attempted to counter Communist influence through urban development schemes. The combination of urban growth and the expansion of discursive activities stimulated the emergence of a distinct civic identity and an accompanying arena of local politics in which Kirkuk’s ethnic communities were deeply invested. After the destabilizing effects of the Iraqi revolution in 1958, a cycle of intercommunal violence began in Kirkuk along increasingly apparent ethnic lines. Escalating conflict between Baghdad and the Kurdish movement for control of Kirkuk after 1958 fueled these tensions further. The reverberations of the revolution’s aftermath are still evident today.

Balbale, Abigail Krasner. “Between Caliphs and Kings: Religion and Authority in Sharq al-Andalus, 1145–1243.” History and MES, 2012. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation focuses on how the Marrakech-based Almohads and their independent Muslim rivals in eastern al-Andalus contested spiritual and temporal power. The rulers of Sharq al-Andalus opposed Almohad claims to a divinely granted authority rooted in a new messianic interpretation of the caliphate. Instead, they articulated a vision of legitimacy linked to earlier Sunni forms, and connected their rule more closely to the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad than any previous Andalusī dynasty had done. One minted coins that included the name of the Abbasid caliph, and another received official permission from the Abbasids to rule as governor of al-Andalus. This dissertation examines the written sources, coins and architecture produced in the courts of Andalusī and Almohad rulers to explore how they legitimated their authority. It argues that the conflict among these Muslim rivals in many ways superseded their battles against Christians. The Almohads saw anyone—Muslim, Christian or Jewish—who did not submit to their rule and their conception of Islam as infidels, and said that jihad against non-Almohad Muslims was more important than jihad against Christians. Nevertheless, later Arabic sources attempted to cast the conflict between the independent rulers of al-Andalus and the Almohads as part of a broader Christian-Muslim clash. The alliances Andalusī rulers made with Christian kings, and, in some cases, their Christian roots, made their religious allegiance to Islam suspect. This attitude has continued in modern scholarship as well. This dissertation instead argues that the independent rulers of al-Andalus and their Almohad counterparts were engaged in a broader debate, common to the wider Islamic world, about what constituted righteous Islamic authority. As the population of the territories ruled by Muslims became majority Muslim, new groups began to gain power, eroding the primacy of the Arab caliphate. Like their Persian and Turkic contemporaries to the east, the Berber and Andalusī rulers of the Islamic west struggled to negotiate between the caliphal ideal of Islamic unity and the increasingly decentralized political world they encountered. Analyzing the conflicts among these rivals illuminates the questions that animated the Islamic world as new spiritual and political forms were emerging.

Li, Darryl. “Jihad and Other Universalisms: Arab-Bosnian Encounters in the U.S. World Order.” Anthropology and MES, 2012. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation uses the experiences of Arab Islamist fighters in the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) to rethink prevailing notions of world order. These actors are frequently glossed as “foreign fighters”: rootless, unaccountable extremists attempting to impose rigid forms of Islam on local “moderate” Muslim populations, be it in BiH, Afghanistan, Chechnya, or other sites of conflict with non-Muslim powers. By illuminating some of the many diasporic and imperial circuits linking BiH with other parts of the world, this dissertation provides a richer historical and sociological context in which transnational activist movements no longer seem so aberrational. This study argues that the mobilization to join the “jihad” alongside Bosnian Muslims can be usefully understood as a universalist project: an attempt to incarnate a worldwide Muslim community (umma) theoretically open to all of humanity, in which activists struggle through the experience of racial, cultural, and doctrinal difference vis-à-vis Bosnian and other Muslims. This approach opens up two broad avenues of inquiry. First, it allows an analysis of how Muslims of different backgrounds interacted in contexts of fighting, intermarriage, and doctrinal disputation. Second, it helps analytically situate the jihad in relation to other forms of armed intervention also acting in the name of humanity, most importantly UN peacekeeping and the U.S.-led “Global War on Terror.” This study is based on approximately 12 months of fieldwork in BiH between 2006 and 2012, mostly in Sarajevo, Zenica, Tuzla, and Bugojno. Open-ended life-history interviews were conducted in Arabic and English with Arab residents of BiH and their Bosnian comrades, kin, and critics. Additional interviews took place in Yemen, France, and Egypt. The study also draws extensively on archival materials culled from various sources, including Bosnian army and intelligence documents gathered by the UN war crimes tribunal, U.S. State Department cables disclosed by Wikileaks, and extensive printed and online materials by participants in and supporters of the jihad written in Arabic, the language formerly known as Serbo-Croatian, and Urdu.

Nakissa, Aria. “Islamic Law and Legal Education in Modern Egypt.” Anthropology and MES, 2012. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation examines the transmission of Islamic legal knowledge in modern Egypt. It is based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Cairo among formally trained Islamic scholars. With governmental permission, I was able to attend classes at both al-Azhar’s Faculty of Sharīʿah and Cairo University’s Dār al-ʿUlūm. I also participated in the network of traditional study circles operating in and around al-Azhar mosque. Combining ethnographic data with extensive archival research, I trace the effects of government-led initiatives over the past century and a half to reform traditional religious learning. Such have revolved around increased incorporation of Western educational methods. There are two themes on which I focus. The first centers on ethics and subjectivity. Talal Asad has suggested that for pre-modern Muslim jurists, accurate understanding of sacred texts presupposed an appropriate "habitus". Drawing on Wittgenstein and Bourdieu, I elaborate Asad’s brief remarks along the following lines. Given that how a text is read depends upon the attributes of the reader, religious authorities insisted that proper interpretations could only be generated by proper character. The way in which to produce proper character was to mold it through a suitable program of ethical discipline. I demonstrate that pre-modern Islamic educational techniques were structured with the aim of imparting a particular habitus (modeled on that of the Prophet) by enjoining meticulous and constant imitation of the Prophet’s personal habits (Sunnah). By transforming themselves into living replicas of the Prophet, jurists believed that they acquired the ability to mirror his textual interpretations. I then describe how traditional linkages between knowledge and ethics have been eroded by the importation of Western learning techniques, scrutinizing the effects of these changes on substantive legal doctrine. The second overarching theme of my research examines how changes in pedagogical methods have produced a corresponding shift in "episteme". Using Foucault, I argue that premodern religious learning was dominated by an episteme centered on language and grammar. I proceed to describe how modern educational reforms have succeeded in inaugurating a new episteme modeled on the natural sciences. I assess the impact of this shift on modes of legal reasoning.

Lokmanoglu, Ayse. “The Implications of the Changes in the Elementary School Religious Education in Turkey between the Years 1980–1989.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2012.
Mostak, Todd. “Social Media as Passive Polling: Using Twitter and Online Forums to Map Islamism in Egypt.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2012.
Smith, Marian. “The Cultural Power of Poetry in Late Timurid Iran and its Representation in the Portable Arts.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2012.
Somi, George. “Beirut's Reconstruction: Citizens' Deaths, the Death of Citizenship?Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2012.
Wood, Leonard. “Reception of European Law, Origins and Islamic Legal Revivalism, and Transformations in Islamic Jurisprudence.” History and MES, 2011. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation examines the reception of European law in Egypt, the origins of Egyptian movements to revive Islamic law, and foundations of transformations in Egyptian-Islamic legal thought between 1875 and 1960. The dissertation has two principal arguments. First, it maintains that an understanding of present-day Islamic law, both theoretical and applied, requires an understanding of developments that occurred in Egyptian legal thought and education between 1875 and 1960. Second, the dissertation demonstrates how the reception of European law in Egypt impacted the country's intellectual culture, its legal-educational institutions, the alignment patterns of its law scholars, and Islamic legal thought between 1875 and 1960. Although the influence of European law and legal thought only partially explains the transformations that took place in Islamic law and legal thought in Egypt, the dissertation argues nonetheless that European influence laid foundations for certain transformations that occurred. Section 1 narrates the evolution of the popular Egyptian desire to revive Islamic law in the face of European legal reception. Section 2 argues that scholars in Europe created fields of knowledge that influenced Egyptian scholars' approaches to secular and Islamic law. Section 3 narrates the intellectual and curricular history of Egypt's law faculties. The section focuses on the Cairo University Law Faculty. Section 4 examines a transformational treatise in Islamic obligations and contract doctrine, Chafik Chehata's Essai d'une théorie générale de l'obligation en droit musulman (1936). The treatise is analyzed as an example of how European ideas inspired the formation of "general theory" writing in Egyptian-Islamic legal thought.

Esdaile, Michael James. “Aden and the End of Empire, 1936–1960.” History and MES, 2011. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation seeks to reinsert the port city of Aden into the postwar world of the rising Cold War, escalating decolonization, and growing global interconnectivity. As the world's second largest port during the 1950s, Aden is a significant venue for historical research and an under-appreciated link of the imperial and “Western” chain of port cities that circled the globe after the Second World War. Rather than retreating from “East of Suez” the British Empire re-imagined their control of Aden as a modern Cold War project inline with both enlightened imperialism and Free World interests. The city's decolonization is therefore a paradigmatic case of British postwar efforts to retain some of their more valuable and functional colonies in a bipolar world system. Aden's rise and fall also provides insight into novel forms of anti-imperial resistance that surfaced between the onset of Aden's formal colonization in 1937 and the rapid expansion of the city's postwar economy, best symbolized by the opening of the Little Aden Oil Refinery in 1954. During this time span organized labor would play the central part in resisting Aden's uncontrolled expansion as well as the determined British attempt to surgically remove Aden from the Arab political space and transform it instead into a global port city. The imperial administration attempted to do so by enhancing the city's cosmopolitan ethnic makeup and recasting Aden as an important node of the burgeoning Anglo-American alliance. Though both efforts were successful to a certain degree, the imperial administration simultaneously neglected several longstanding socioeconomic issues that plagued Aden's economy: namely, immigration, housing and cost of living. These problems gradually leached into the political debates concerning Aden's future and gradually drove Aden's labor movement and anti-imperial body politic towards extremism and rejectionism. Labor-Empire actions and reactions fulminated in a pivotal turning point of its postwar development in 1960. This moment—the removal of the right to strike—neatly illustrates how later anti-imperial movements engaged with different dialogues, networks and international spaces in order to outflank their imperial opponents and force them to adopt new and unprecedented strategies to counter and neutralize these new threats.

Ilicak, Sukru. “A Radical Rethinking of Empire: Ottoman State and Society during the Greek War of Independence 1821–1826.” History and MES, 2011. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This dissertation investigates the Greek War of Independence as an Ottoman experience, exploring in particular how Sultan Mahmūd II (1808-1839) and the central state elite tried to make sense of and reacted to the rapidly changing world around them. It explores how the perceptions, actions and reactions of the Ottoman state to the Greek insurgency had a deep and long-lasting impact on both Ottoman state and society, and how it necessitated a radical rethinking of the empire. Specifically, it looks into the war's ensuing need to create a self-mobilizing proto-citizen, a project that was articulated by the Ottoman state as a response to the threat posed by the Greek insurgents. This study thus suggests that nineteenth century Ottoman history, especially the history of Tanzimat, cannot be properly understood without connecting it to the Greek War of Independence —something that has been sorely lacking in most “classical” histories of the Tanzimat period.

Kia, Mana. “Contours of Persianate Community, 1722–1835.” History and MES, 2011. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Nations tell stories about themselves that tend to cohere around a shared language and a history unique to a particular land. South and West Asia—regions that shared Persian as a language of social, cultural and political power and prestige for centuries, until the early 19th century—present a conundrum in the context of nationalist narratives and the uniqueness these narratives claim for themselves. Literary and historical scholarship on the Persianate world largely reflects the assumptions underpinning these narratives, and, as a result, the scope and analyses of this scholarship are structured by the logic of protonationalist sensibilities. This dissertation seeks to contribute to a growing body of work on Persianate culture, considering how a shared language of learning and power, which was enabled by and reinforced the circulation of ideas, goods, texts, people and practices, was vital in the constitution of cultural ideas and social systems in the neighboring lands of Iran and India. Texts that scholars have generally read as iconically protonationalist are reconsidered alongside contemporaneous texts from a variety of genres that share features as commemorative texts of self and community. This dissertation argues that a shared Persianate culture, vested in a corpus of learning and expressed in an ethics of comportment (adab), was the basis of conceptions of self and community in the turbulent century that caused populations to disperse, centers of power to shift and the circulations that interlinked Persianate regions to ebb and flow. Beginning with the two assumed bases of protonationalist and nationalist community, land as society and language as culture, this dissertation begins the work of making sense of early modern Persianate culture outside the anachronistic shadow of nationalisms.

Bandy, Hunter. “Islamic Educational Treatises: A Guiding Light for Instructors, Students, and Their Books.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2011.
Bohan, Zara. “Women and Children First? The Impact of Humanitarian Practices on Sudanese Refugees in Cairo.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies, 2011.